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Among all the disruptions COVID-19 has wrought in the marketing world (and obviously everyday life), video production is a big one. How do you film great video content while keeping everyone safe? How do you set a good example for other advertisers and minimize liabilities? How does Styling work?

Let me walk you through some of the things the 3Q Digital Creative team has learned over the past eight months since our last “normal” video shoot on location in Mississippi (ah, the good old days… we sure had fun back then, with over 25 people on set!).

The use of masks behind/in front of the camera

Regardless of your state’s requirements, any crew hired by 3Q during COVID will wear protective gear.

Should the talent in your spots wear a mask? This is a question we’ve asked ourselves often lately, and had many discussions around. The answer: it depends.

At this point, we’re all tired of the sea of sameness of COVID commercials. And many advertisers have gone back to “normal.” While it may not be necessary for your particular story to show masked individuals, we still advise you to exercise caution and to continue setting good, safe examples, by not showing unmasked gatherings beyond groups of people who are living together. We usually try to stick with individuals or 2-3 people, in their home, or outside. When it comes to filming content outside, we also recommend avoiding showing anything that indicates travel.

Know your options!

Yes, 25-person shoots in Mississippi seem like a long time ago. In place of traditional shoots, we’ve come up with a range of options to suit advertisers working with different budgets and restrictions.

On-location shoot with COVID safety specialists

Some of our production partners have implemented extensive safety protocols, allowing even larger shoots to take place with minimal risks. These protocols include hiring COVID safety officers and set medics who perform a health check on everyone before entering the set; spacious green rooms—ideally outside—with stylists wearing masks and gloves sanitizing outfits for the talent; hair & makeup artists in PPE diligently cleaning their supplies and using disposable tools; and tech that allows the crew to live-stream the shoot to creative teams and clients which preempts travel and having too many people on set.

On-location shoot with a small crew

As I write this article, we are “on set”—filming with three models at an outside venue in L.A. Where am I? On my couch in Marin County. The rest of the creative team, as well as our clients, are safely inside their homes as well.

Who’s on set? Our Director of Photography, our producer, one camera assistant, and the talent—staggered so that at any given time there are only four people on set. Everyone got tested for COVID-19 24 hrs. before the shoot and had their temperature taken before stepping on set. Everyone is wearing masks unless they’re on camera, and the crew is staying 20’ away from the talent at all times. The camera is remote-controlled.

The creative team and our clients are connected to the action via group text messages and Slack. We could have set up an all-day Zoom as well, but with this particular shoot we have too many location changes, so it was more time-efficient to have our producer text iPhone stills and takes to the group.

Behind the scenes, it’s looking mighty empty. The camera with motor controls and Bluetooth, and our friendly camera assistant who set it up. Not pictured here: the only other two crew members on set—our DP and our Producer. Incidentally, an all-female crew!

Remote talent, directed via video call

We have done a number of shoots recently that were 100% COVID-safe. We cast talent from a pool of 3Qers, family and friends, or casting agencies, depending on the project and budget. Then we ship any props needed to the talent’s house. Our chosen Director works with the talent on Zoom, making sure they not only understand exactly what to do, but also figure out the best lighting, sound, and background settings. Talent then either film themselves (or have someone they live with/are quarantined with film) with an iPhone, or the director records them on the screen, via Zoom.

User-generated content (UGC) on demand

We have partnered with a few casting companies who gather fun content made by real people for us. Think a family filming themselves dancing together in their living room or their backyard, or people playing silly games with their pets, or showing off a newly acquired skill or hobby—all the good stuff we do that keeps us all laughing during these trying times while staying safely in our bubbles. This type of content feels very real and relatable, and when edited nicely together it can tell wonderful stories.

Influencer and existing UGC content

This technically doesn’t fall into the video production bucket, since all we do here is gather existing content and then edit it together in a way that works for the stories we are looking to tell. But it is something to keep in mind as an alternative to the last resort (stock footage).

Localized content

Thanks to the wonderful diversity of people in this country, so far we have been able to find the right talent for many different regions around the world. All the above-mentioned approaches are theoretically available with localized talent. In some cases, it just takes a bit longer to find.

In summary: we are open for production!

Please reach out with your video needs; we’re happy to figure out the best solution for you.